Spoilers TOS: The Higher Frontier, by Christopher L. Bennett - review thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Cyfa, Mar 7, 2020.

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Rate TOS: The Higher Frontier

  1. Oustanding

    13 vote(s)
    38.2%
  2. Above Average

    12 vote(s)
    35.3%
  3. Average

    5 vote(s)
    14.7%
  4. Below Average

    1 vote(s)
    2.9%
  5. Poor

    3 vote(s)
    8.8%
  1. David cgc

    David cgc Admiral Premium Member

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    Just finished the book, and the annotations (the descriptions of the alien armor did make me think of Japanese superhero shows; I think it was the belt that gave it away for me, since I haven't really watched any since Power Rangers when I was little).

    Maybe it's because of all the SG-1 reminiscing over in SF&F, but the chapter of Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura discussing the TV show based on the five year mission gave me big "200" vibes, though the part about tie-ins, especially the reference to CLB's "historical fiction" comparison from the board, felt like Inception-levels of layers of metafiction. The characters are discussing how much of a stretch tie-ins based on an already-fictionalized story based on a hypothetical platonic "real" Star Trek can be... in a tie-in... to the fictional Star Trek canon... so is this itself an in-universe tie-in, with extrapolated versions of the fictional versions of the real crew reacting to the fictionalization of them, but as their fictionalized personas... I never really sympathized with Janeway complaining about time-travel, but I think that scene got my mind to start spinning out in the way some people do when they don't grok time-travel. It was fun.

    As always, I enjoyed the subtle ripped-from-the-headlines aspects, like the most xenophobic Andorians being the ones with the least contact with aliens, and Spock's sarcastic remark when confronted with the "isn't being intolerant of intolerance the real intolerance" canard. I was interested in the part about "psion particles," and am interested that there's more to them that might come up in a future novel, if only because I mused in another thread somewhere in the last several months about how, thanks to it's pulp sci-fi underpinnings, the nominally-atheistic Star Trek universe had repeatedly and conclusively demonstrated the existence of the soul as a scientifically detectable and quantifiable phenomena in-universe, and has probably got a decent handle on the great questions of the afterlife, but unfortunately, CLB had yet to write a novel doing for Star Trek's theories of mind what he did for time-travel and ancient galactic history, so I'm not sure how it all fits together. That part will probably continue to be politely ignored in and out of universe, but it'd be an interesting avenue for some sociological science fiction.

    It's always a thrill to get a new novel set in my beloved movie-era. I know I've talked on the board before about my idea for a movie-era ongoing novel story, not necessarily told chronologically, but with a pre-planned skeleton of all the beats we know happened between the six-and-a-bit TOS movies so over time the whole time period gets filled in, and while I'm pretty sure there isn't a secret outline somewhere with all the waypoints drawn up, it seems to be happening anyway just because the authors like to have the continuity hang together. I liked touches like the foreshadowing of the crew musing that they'd probably be unlikely to have a third go-around at joining together and having another shot at their glory days (and the related mention in the metafiction chapter that in stories, the crew could go on having adventures forever), though I'm not sure how well having Kirk become commandant of the Academy and the Enterprise be a training ship so early fits with the "troubleshooting Admiral" period in this and other stories (unless I'm completely forgetting that those stories had the Enterprise normally acting as a training ship and Kirk normally at the Academy, which is possible), and that Kirk is going to have his first unsuccessful stab at retirement in a couple years, and then go back to Starfleet, where he's assigned to be commandant of the Academy, with the Enterprise as a training ship, as if the service was just waiting on him to realize he didn't want to be horseback riding and married for the rest of his life so they didn't bother to give his desk to anyone else.

    I suppose the whole Antonia thing is another novel, but jumping directly to pre-TWOK feels like burning off some potential for a more radical change to the status quo than what the book presented as a fairly smooth arc from the situation at the end of TMP to the situation at the beginning of TWOK. In any event, that's all window-dressing, in the end, it'd still be Admiral Kirk and Captain Spock rescuing the ersatz telepaths, no matter what their nominal assignments are. I think the reason I bring it up at all is because CLB's novels are so good at weaving in the tapestry and really taking advantage of the idea of Star Trek stories being set in a complex, interconnected, living world, and not just one imaginary ship bopping along having unconnected adventures, so it brings these sorts of contextual questions to mind.
     
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  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The only other story with the status quo depicted here is Mere Anarchy: The Darkness Drops Again, because I invented it. Previous fiction set during Kirk's second tour as Admiral has just had him as Academy commandant or back to Chief of Starfleet Operations; I was the first to propose that he could retain the Enterprise as his flagship for occasional special missions, though I was somewhat influenced by The Lost Years and its idea of Kirk being a "diplomatic troubleshooter" during his first stint as admiral between TOS and TMP. Also, I think you could pretty easily fit the New Earth mission into the "special-missions flagship" period -- and indeed I intended it to be consistent with TWOK as well, with Kirk taking command for the mission to Regula I.


    No stranger than them constantly giving the Enterprise back to him and his old command crew, rather than rotating them out so junior officers can advance.



    I covered it a bit in The Darkness Drops Again.


    I'm surprised you see it that way, because the whole reason I did it is because it is a change to the status quo. I could've just picked up the post-TMP mission where I left it off in Forgotten History, but that would've been just more routine adventures (if that's not an oxymoron) that didn't really justify being post-TMP. I felt the "special mission" period I set up in TDDA had more interesting potential, because I could mix things up, portray different kinds of missions, send the characters on different assignments, tell stories about the Academy in between special missions, etc.

    The timing of when Kirk became commandant is established in Peter David's The Captain's Daughter, which TDDA was consistent with, and so THF is consistent with it too. That book established the post-TMP mission as a second 5-year tour, which, per the Chronology dating the books are constrained to follow, leaves another 7 years prior to TWOK. There's plenty of room in there for a range of stories that aren't necessarily constrained by the standard TOS format.
     
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  3. David cgc

    David cgc Admiral Premium Member

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    As much as I like timelines for putting things in context, I can't really keep fictional dates in my head (plus, it's been a very long time since I read either TCD or TDDA), so that's why I mentioned that I wasn't sure if the timing was already locked in in prior books, and it just stood out to me this time because we were actually seeing the transition. In my memory, the "special mission" period was distinct from the "Academy" period, and I hadn't remembered that (or rather, when) The Captain's Daughter explicitly went directly from post-TMP to pre-TWOK. My impression I walked in with was that it would be TMP, five-ish year mission II, Kirk gets re-promoted and is the troubleshooting Admiral-at-Large with Spock's Enterprise as his flagship, as I remember (vaguely, apparently) from TDDA and Elusive Salvation, Kirk retires and has his Generations flashback, Kirk un-retires, and it's only around then he gets assigned to the Academy and the Enterprise is benched as a training ship.

    (I did like how you squared the circle of how the Enterprise went from being a state-of-the-art front-line prototype to being a borderline-obsolete training ship that had one foot in the scrapyard in twelve years. Also, I deeply sympathize with Scotty's opinions on the blinking Modern Props gak plastered all over Engineering and the corridors.)

    Anyway, I love the concept of the "special missions" era and want to see more of it, I just feel like having it be concurrent with the Academy era is a little pat. Like, we have status quo "A" at the end of TMP, and status quo "B" at the beginning of TWOK, and we pivot from one to the other almost exactly at the midpoint between the two movies, when I feel like there's narrative room for a more meandering path from A-to-B. Though it sounds like my real complaint is with Peter David not foreseeing the rise of the novelverse twenty-five years ago and directly bridging the first two movies, which I guess I can't really hold against anyone.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But that's the whole idea behind it, basically. Kirk was miserable as an admiral in TMP because he no longer had a ship to command. 5 years later, he's worked out a plan, and this time he'll agree to a desk job again so long as he gets the E as his flagship and takes on occasional special missions in between his Academy duties. So they don't make sense as separate phases. The special missions are his compensation for taking a desk job.


    I guess it's kind of a "pivot" where Kirk and Spock are concerned, but what about the others? There's room for them to go on various different missions, like Scotty and Uhura being on the Asimov. One thing that's implicit in TWOK, though largely in deleted material, is that this is the first time the full command crew (minus Chekov) has been together for a while, that they've gotten together for the special occasion of Kirk's birthday coinciding with a training cruise. And that made me curious about what they were doing in the interim.

    In retrospect, though, I wish I hadn't put Chekov on Reliant quite so early in The Darkness Drops Again. Seven years is a long time, and if I hadn't already tied myself down, I would've had him take on some other assignments before getting assigned to Terrell's ship. Although on the other hand, I did enjoy the chance to finally give Reliant's crew some long-overdue exploration. I compensated as best I could by having Chekov start out as science officer/second officer and introducing a different first officer, so there's at least a little room for change.
     
  5. DEWLine

    DEWLine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    All of which works for me as a member of the audience. Thank you.
     
  6. Landru1000

    Landru1000 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    But in TWOK, Kirk doesn't seem like a guy who's been having shipboard adventures here and there for the past few years. He feels old and stagnant, like a guy who hasn't been off-planet in years (sort of like Picard in the new show, albeit much younger.) So the 'special missions' concept has always seemed an awkward fit with what we see in that film. I see how it answers the question of why Kirk makes the same mistake twice, but I guess I read it as five (or more) years later, he's just burned out in a way he wasn't after the original five-year mission.

    (I enjoyed The Higher Frontier very much, as usual with your work -- thank you!)
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That film's events are still nearly 7 years in the future, though. A lot can change in that span of time. We know that at some point in that span, Kirk temporarily retires from Starfleet, not going back until just a year before TWOK. His status quo on coming back from retirement wouldn't necessarily be the same as it is in 2278-9, at least not emotionally.

    Plus, of course, in 2279 he's still in his 40s. Getting older can change your perspective.
     
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  8. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If he did not retire, I would speculate that the special missions became almost non-existent before TWOK.
    Maybe they did and that was a reason for his retirement?
     
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  9. lawman

    lawman Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I am in the stubborn camp that likes to think of TWOK as set in 2283 (plausibly closer to "fifteen years" after "Space Seed," and aligned with Kirk's 50th birthday, which helps explain the midlife crisis), rather than in 2285 (as per the Okudachron, a date that now seems frozen in amber for no especially persuasive reason).

    So FWIW, and stipulating that this is obviously all just my headcanon, I tend to think of Kirk's "Antonia interlude" as follows. We know he met her 11 years before the events of Gen in 2293, and that they parted ways 9 years before that movie, the day he told her he was "going back to Starfleet." We know precious little else. Hence...

    IMHO he met her in '82, during a period when he was tired of his Academy desk job, and was no longer getting into space very much (as posited just above), and that was why he was drawn to her and the relationship, and started spending more and more time with her. She perhaps tried talking him into retirement, but he demurred. Then out of left field, the events of TWOK through TVH happened in '83 (perhaps through early '84)... after which the Enterprise had been destroyed, he'd had a final extended "swan song" in which he rescued his best friend and saved Earth, and he felt he and Starfleet had nothing left to offer each other. He reunited with Antonia, retired, and moved to the cabin... and was happy for a few months, until... Starfleet surprised him by doing what we saw in the final scene of TVH (after an internal continuity gap following the trial), and offered him not just a new command but a new Enterprise with his old crewmates on board. He just couldn't resist, and went back... and Antonia walked away.

    Okay, granted, it's a good deal of futzing about just to rationalize out-of-left-field internal references in a not-very-good movie (Gen), but FWIW I think it makes more sense that imagining that he retired and came back before TWOK, and trying to figure out why. (Hell, even if one wants to keep TWOK in '85 for some reason, I think it'd make more sense just to retcon the time references in Gen and interpret the "retirement" period this way.)
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As a fan answerable only to yourself, you have that freedom. As a contracted tie-in author working in a shared continuity, I have to stay consistent with the Chronology and with other novel-continuity references based on it, even though I personally would prefer to put TWOK earlier.

    Although the problem with putting TWOK earlier is that it also puts TFF earlier and makes it even harder to justify Nimbus III having existed for 20 years as a joint UFP/Klingon/Romulan project. Since there was no contact with the Romulans prior to late 2266 or so, that makes it hard to put TFF any earlier than 2286, which I suspect was a major factor in the Okudas' choice to put it in '87 and fudge the TWOK date commensurately (or nearly so, since I can't see a way to justify more than a year passing between TWOK and TFF).
     
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  11. Jinn

    Jinn Mistress of the Chaotic Energies Rear Admiral

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    Did TFF specify whether it was exactly 20 years, or could it be fudged by like two years or so?
     
  12. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Caithlin Dar says, "Twenty years ago, our three governments agreed to develop this planet together. A new age was born." It's not portrayed as the twentieth anniversary or anything, so I don't see a reason to assume it's not 17-19 years if that helps things work out.
     
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  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The point is, it's a choice between fudging the 15 years in TWOK or fudging the 20 years in TFF. There's no way to put 5 years between the movies' events and have them both be accurate, so either way, at least one of them has to be fudged.

    Greg Cox's To Reign in Hell found an interesting solution -- he made Ceti Alpha V's years a bit longer than Earth's, so that 18 Earth years equalled 15 Ceti Alpha V years. Although that only explained why Khan thought of it as 15 years, not why Kirk also did.


    The point is, prior to "Balance of Terror," the Romulan government had zero contact with either of the others. So the movie has to be at least 20 years after BoT.

    Though of course, Caithlin Dar could be speaking in Romulan years or Nimbian years, which could easily be shorter than Earth years. Still, the point remains that something has to be fudged.
     
  14. Kilana2

    Kilana2 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Are there other Trek novels involving the Aenar?
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    They appear in Enterprise: The Good That Men Do. And Typhon Pact: Paths of Disharmony established that they're believed to have gone extinct around the late 2270s.
     
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  16. Jinn

    Jinn Mistress of the Chaotic Energies Rear Admiral

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    Ah, I see. Thanks!
     
  17. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I was impressed by how Christopher managed to ties so many seemingly disjoint events into a narrative.
     
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  18. Admiral Rex

    Admiral Rex Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I very much appreciate that Kirk and the Enterprise crew didn't spend seven years teaching at the Academy. I always assumed they went their separate ways preforming different duties and missions while still occasionally teaching at the Academy. I like how this novel sets up Kirk being able to still use the E for special missions. Now that we have that set-up, let's have more novels in this time period.
     
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  19. Edward Jellico

    Edward Jellico Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I enjoyed seeing the Reliant crew get fleshed out, especially Terrell whose command style is very different from any of the other captains but is no less valid. I remember reading in the WoK novelization that he had a very relaxed command style, it seems to work well for him.

    I'm hoping that the First Officer gets to retire or some other nice outcome.
     
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  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I drew a lot on Terrell's portrayal in the Vanguard/Seeker novels.


    Don't worry, I'm not David Mack. :D